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Romney says Mass. health reforms not 'HillaryCare'

By JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talks to the crowd after holding a health care forum at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
[Lara Cerri | Times]
[Lara Cerri | Times]
Gov. Mitt Romney is reflected in the window behind St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker and Romney's wife, Ann Romney as the governor talks during a health care forum at All Children's Hospital Tuesday.

ST. PETERSBURG - In the wake of criticism of his health care record, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a detailed explanation of reforms in Massachusetts under his watch during a speech on Tuesday at All Children's Hospital.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney oversaw the expansion of health care coverage for all residents. Recently, he and rival presidential contender Rudy Giuliani have sparred over a number of issues, including health care insurance, which national polls place as a top domestic issue among voters. Some 47-million people are uninsured nationwide.

Giuliani has accused Romney of abandoning his health care record in Massachusetts as he called that state plan "exactly the same" as "HillaryCare," a pejorative often used by Republican presidential candidates to describe what they call socialized health care.

Many independent health care experts agree that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan shares principles with the Massachusetts health care reform, though neither is socialized health care.

Both plans expand upon the existing private-public system and don't interfere with existing employer-offered insurance plans. Both include mandates on individuals to find coverage. In Massachusetts, that means those who can afford to purchase health insurance -but choose not to - face increasing tax penalties. Clinton's campaign declines to reveal details of how a national mandate would be enforced.

"There's an awful lot of similarities between what was signed in Massachusetts and the Clinton plan," said Robert Blendon a Harvard University professor of health policy and political analysis.

During Romney's speech on Tuesday, he said he was "proud of my record," but he also pointed to differences between what he did and what Clinton is now pitching. He said his reforms "didn't cost us more money, it didn't require raising taxes," because Massachusetts paid for universal health care by redirecting federal funds that reimburse hospitals for indigent care.

Clinton's health care proposal would partially pay for itself by closing income tax exemptions for those making more than $250,0000 a year.

Romney stressed that the Massachusetts health care reforms are worthy of being followed. "It's a great model for other states to copy parts or all of," Romney said.

However, the national health care plan Romney is proposing as a presidential candidate is different in that it allows states to create their own health care plans, "hopefully a bit like ours."

After his speech, Romney lashed at Giuliani to a gaggle of reporters, denying that he's stepped away from what did in Massachusetts, saying, "I talk about my record everywhere I go."

[Last modified November 27, 2007, 23:27:28]

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